Dampened normality.

Monday, May 19th, 2003

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Well, when we complained about how dry it’s been, when we bemoaned the low lake levels and felt for the rural Georgia farmers just one scant year ago, we definitely weren’t expecting this deluge (aprés-moi).

But here we sit, soggy and hacking up some sorta moldy allergy cough that won’t quite go away, watching a stream of tiny black ants parade along the wall where the windowsill has leaked water where it wasn’t supposed to.

It’s been rainy.

It’s been very, very rainy. And as is the fashion in this age where everything is talked about and dealt with in extremes, the stories on the news are all about inundated crops and earthen dams failing and sewers clogged across town.

I mean, ye gads, if it isn’t one thing, it’s the extreme other.

And in and around it all, life goes on, comfortably and quietly enough. Sam’s cranking on a journal article and we’re making plans for a midsummer trip to Oaxaca, where she’ll do some work in the mountain highlands and I’ll spend some time alongside, at altitude, scribbling notes, typing in the Powerbook, and maybe shooting some video that’ll resemble some cable documentary on archaeostuff.

Last weekend, we went down to Jekyll Island for the Society for Georgia Archaeology
conference, where, to my surprise, self-styled penurious archaeologists who would never, never
give up their tightly-clutched slide carousels were there slapping up cluttered powerpoint presentations on the big screen using pricy presentation projectors which were paid by, well, someone.

I think a tide has turned, and where I of course vastly prefer the image control and typographic beauty of Apple’s Keynote application, the standard name that has become the nearly generic term (a la ‘Kleenex’ or ‘Xerox’) is, of course, PowerPoint, from the evil Microsoft corporation. So I’ll lowercase it: powerpoint, in hopes of helping that process along. At any rate, when Rank Amateurs Who Aren’t Designers Go Wrong and toss up images cluttered with way too many photos, reduced to tiny squares on the screen, I find myself nostalgic for the old days of nice simple photographs, presented as slides.

So in the interest of making a contribution, I offer here a quick bulletpoint list of things to do and to avoid:

  • If you have a nice image, show it off. Make it huge on the screen.
  • If the image needs help, crop it tightly to the relevant content. This goes for photos or tables or anything that is reduced in the image. Remove borders and margins on reduced images, but…
  • …maintain a border (in TV we call it a ‘safe title area’) of no content around your entire graphic. Stuff should not be positioned at the edges.
  • It’s better to go through several large easy to read graphs, images, or lists than to be forced to parse one compound graphic with all kindsa stuff displayed at once.
  • The graphic is up there to lead your audience through information–not to serve as notes and structure for you. Put up one thing at a time, instead of displaying a huge and complex outline all at once in tiny type.
  • Use downstyle capitalization on all your text–including headlines. Capitalize it like you’d write a sentence.
  • Resist the urge to be cute. Humor is OK, but ‘cute’ isn’t.
  • Don’t use the standard yellow text color Microsoft suggests. Make it peachier or orangier. trust me on this one.

Okay, I feel better now. Great folks, important content, but ye gads, I beheld some powerpoints that besmote my eyes.

Hope you have a dry(er) week.